Michael Ott, President and CEO, Polysciences, Inc.
Michael Ott is President and CEO of Polysciences, Inc., a
diversified manufacturer of chemicals for the research, medical device,
electronic and diagnostic markets, and a member of SOCMA’s Board of
Governors. Ott began his career with specialty chemical manufacturer
Rohm and Haas as a Technical Sales Representative. He holds
undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Accounting and was a
Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He also has a master’s degree in
Finance, Marketing and Accounting.
How or why did you become involved in the specialty chemical industry and how long have you been a part of the industry? In
the summer of 1970, while studying chemical engineering at Purdue, I
began working in the chemical industry as a co-op student at a Rohm and
Haas Plant in Louisville, KY. I have always been fascinated by
chemicals, and I have always wanted to have my own chemical company.
After graduating from Purdue, I stayed with Rohm and Haas and worked in
Philadelphia; Baltimore; Chicago; Auckland, New Zealand; and Mexico
City. In 1986, I started at Polysciences, and eventually bought it from
the owner in 1993.
What do you think are the most pressing challenges facing
the specialty chemical industry and what solutions do you recommend for
addressing them? The specialty chemical industry makes
products essential to the existence of human society, so there will
always be a need for the products we make. Regulations and controls
from various government agencies simply make products more expensive.
Responsible manufacturers put safety first, and regulatory compliance is
part of that. I have always said regulatory compliance is a
competitive advantage. The Industry is beset by more regulations every
year, and many countries are protecting local producers with importation
restrictions. There will always be challenges in running these
businesses, and I recommend membership in SOCMA as an efficient way to
know what issues need attention, and to help the industry address those
Do you think there should be common goals within the industry? If so, what would those goals be?
I think the vast majority of business owners have similar goals of
making a living, having fun and providing employment for people who want
jobs. There are plenty of challenges facing businesses in dealing with
customers, suppliers, employees, government entities and competitors.
In terms of common goals, I think everyone wants to operate safely and
efficiently while remaining compliant with the law.
How would you define and measure innovation in chemistry?
Innovation is an essential characteristic for a business to have
longevity and the ability to grow. Ideas come from many sources, but
usually it is the combination of two dissimilar things that creates a
new product with desirable qualities. In the areas of business in which
my company works, there are many innovations that are necessary to make
products for the demanding markets that we serve. I tend to associate
innovation with the growth of revenue that is in excess of inflation.
Please share a couple of personal or professional strategies you intend to pursue in 2015. Next year we are planning Lean Six Sigma projects that will expand our production capabilities. We will also begin the gradual integration of a modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system throughout our business segments, which will make information more available to managers.
What are some of the major changes you have seen in the industry since you became a part of it? I can remember climbing up a metal stairwell on the outside of a huge chimney at a Louisville plant and sticking pitot tubes
into the stack to measure flow rates. All of the smells and physical
stimuli that surrounded that coal-fired steam plant are now gone. This
is the result of environmental, health and safety initiatives that allow
processes to be more stringently contained. Communication and
information have also changed greatly. I once worked with a slide rule,
and there were no fax machines, cell phones or internet. Sales and
customer service have changed dramatically.
What advice would you give a young person thinking about going into the specialty chemical industry? I
think the specialty chemical industry is very exciting and rewarding.
Providing new and valuable materials that help the general condition of
society is an excellent way to have a fulfilling and financially
abundant life. The world desperately needs scientifically educated
people who understand how things work and how to make new things.
Chemists and chemical engineers do a lot to keep things going on Earth,
and they are what keep the specialty chemical industry going.
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